In this day and age sitting down as a family for dinner can seem almost impossible. Everyone seems to be even busier with work, school, kids activities, etc. I completely understand and can relate but family meals are a commitment. You may know what your family likes to eat, but remember not to become a short-order cook, making different foods for different members of your family according to their varying tastes. Short order cooking and pressure to try foods prevents kids from learning to accept new foods. My goal is to provide you with some tips that will get you on the path to making dinners and sitting down as a family to eat so it will soon become second nature.
1. The best way to start is to pick one or two days a week when you have the time to sit down, look at recipes, plan menus, and shop. Start by looking at your schedule for the week to see what events during the week might get in your way.
2. Get your family involved in picking out healthy recipes to try. You can be family friendly without limiting your meals to only foods your child likes. Try to include at least 2 healthful foods (like milk and fruit) especially if you are trying a new meal or food. Another option is to always prepare 2 vegetable options at dinner. This way your child will be given an option to choose while still eating their vegetables.
3. The first step when planning your dinners is to visualize what your plate will look like. It should be at least one-half vegetables, a quarter protein, and a quarter starchy vegetables or whole grains. You will also want to include a variety of colors, flavors, and textures.
4. Second, decide which protein you will have each night and build from there (for instance, fish on Mondays, poultry on Tuesdays, etc). Plan to use the most perishable foods earlier in the week (e.g., fish on Mondays, chicken on Tuesdays) so that they are at their best.
5. Another idea is to choose a theme for each night, like Mexican (Taco Tuesdays) or Italian (Milanese Mondays).
6. Once you decide what you are making and make your list of items needed, go through your pantry and refrigerator and check off the items that you already have. Some websites make a shopping list for you. You can also handwrite or type your shopping list, or you can cut and paste your various recipe ingredients into a new shopping list.
7. Once you get home from the store it can be helpful to clean and cut any vegetables and fruit before putting away to save on some prep time. If purchasing family packs of meats, you may want to separate before putting into freezer. This way you can grab only what you need and thaw when ready.
8. Create a master recipe list. Having a list of beloved, go-to meals is one of the easiest ways to expedite the meal planning process. Just add to it every time you find a new dish you love.
9. Recycle meal plans from previous weeks, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Old meal plans are great to fall back on, especially those weeks you don't have time to sit down and start from scratch.
10. Finally, remember all the benefits to eating together as family. You develop stronger bonds with your children, you are more likely to eat a healthier meal, you are teaching your children manners, and saving money just to name a few.